Centring round the great temple of Mahaprabhu Shri Jagannath,many a Matha (Monasteries) grew up gradually in course of time in this holy town.In the past many Saints and Sadhus had come to Puri to have darshan of Mahaprabhu Shri Jagannath.They came in contact with and influenced the Gajapati Kings through their philosophical doctrines.The saints and sadhus established their monasteries on the lands donated to them by the kings and wealthy persons. The Maths continued preaching their respective doctrines and also performed certain ritual services in the Jagannath Temple.With endowed properties and lands, the heads of the Maths were able to maintain their institutions. Lands were donated to the Maths for 'Amritmanohi' the proceeds thereof were spent in offering 'Bhoga' to Mahaprabhu Shri Jagannath and the 'Mahaprasad' thus obtained, were distributed among the pilgrims, pupils, ascetics, and beggars. The functions of the Maths were:
as reported in the Puri Gazetter (1929) the "Mathas are monastic houses originally founded with the object of giving religious instructions to chelas or disciples and generally of encouraging a religious life." The heads of the Mathas are called Mahantas or Mathadhis. They are generally celebrates but in certain Mathas married men can become the Mahantas.
They are generally selected from among their 'Chelas'.Some mathas were set up for defence purposes.
King Narasingh Dev-1 established 4 mathas ('Akhadas' ଆଖଡା )namely Bagha Akhada, Khaki Akhada, Hati Akhada and Nirmohi Akhada mathas with strong valiant Sadhus to guard the temple.As per the said Gazetter " there are over seventy mathas in Puri town." The Mathas are affiliated to different sects of Hinduism,namely Angira sect, Adwait sect, Ramanandi sect, Ramanuja sect, Atibadi sect, Gaudiya sect, Pancha Ramanandi sect, Gauda Mahaba sect, Nimbarka sect, Anant sect, Utkal Vaishnab sect, Madhabacharya sect, Dashanami sect, Pustimarga sect.etc.There are also some mathas belonging to the Gurunanaka sect and the Kabir sect.
Most of the Mathas of Puri have ritual relation with the Sri Jagannath temple.
JAGANNATH BALLAV MATHA
It is so to say the pleasure garden of Mahaprabhu Sri Jagannath.The "Bije pratimas" (the representative images) of Shri Mahaprabhu visit this Matha on different festive occasions like "Basanta Panchami",on the 1st,4th,5th,and 12th days in the bright fortnight of Falguna.This Matha supplies flower-ornaments like 'tilak'and 'jhumpa' for Baddasinghara besha and supplies 'Kora' (a sweet food) for 'Kaliya dalana' and 'Pralambasura badha' beshas.It also supplies'dayana' for 'dayana chori' ritual.
This Matha situated on the grand road has a trust board under the administrative control of the Endowment Commissioner of the State. It has no Mahanta.
RAGHABA DAS MATHA
It is situated near the southern gate of the Jagannath temple.This Matha supplies 'tahia' on Snana purnima,Car festival,Return Car festival and Niladribije days.It supplies a part of the Hati besha.It supplies 'tuli'for pahandiand a certain quantity of sandal wood for 'Sarbanga'neeti on 'Khalilagi ekadasi.It also supplies flower garlands for 'Nabanka bedha' and offers 'adhara pana bhog' and 'panti bhog' on certain festive days.
This Matha is responsible for supply of the materials for certain rituals.It supplies,'trimundi chandua' and silk clothes for ' Chaka apasara',repairs 'Kanakamundi'.It also supplies till oil for Phuluri neeti, oil and ghee etc.for 'Deva deepawali',offers 'Chakata bhog'in 'Anasara' and adharpana bhog' and 'Panti bhog'on certain days. On Neeladri bije day,the Mahanta makes ‘majana’ of ratnavedi. This Matha was set up by Atibadi Jagannath Das,a poet-saint of Orissa in early part of the 16th century.
It was established by the Saint Ramanuja. This Matha supplies 'Chandrika'and 'Chausara' made of flowers for the Badasinghar besha of Shri Mahaprabhu,'Mala' and 'Chula' for the 'nabanka' ritual.It offers 'Pana bhog'during the Chandan Yatra, 'Chakata bhog' during the 'anasara' period and 'bala bhog' during the month of Kartika.
This Matha supplies a part of 'Hati besha' on the Snana Purnima day and ' makara chula' on the Snana Purnima and Makara sankranti days and offers panti bhog.
It was established by the great Sankaracharya in the Swargadwar area.Puri became one of the four important 'dhamas'(places) of Hinduism because of the establishment of this Matha by the great Saint. The head of this Matha also known as Sankaracharya is the permanent head (nayak) of the Muktimandap of the Sri Jagannath temple by virtue of his position.The temple authorities use to consult him in religious or ritual matters when ever necessary.
BADA CHHATA MATHA
Situated in front of the temple. Performs 'Kirtan' at the time of 'mangala alati' and 'pahuda alati' and bala dhupa.Padma besha of Shri Mahaprabhu is done and 'Kshiri bhog' offered by this Matha.
SUNA GOSWAMI MATHA
It supplies flower ornaments like 'alaka'and 'chausara' during the Chandan Yatra, makes 'majana' of 'ratnavedi' at the time of 'banakalagi',supplies 'adhibasa jala' from the well of Sitala fof Snana purnima rituals,and offers 'panti bhog'to Dola Govinda at tthe time of 'Agniutschaba'.The Mahanta of this matha also happens to be the mahanta of Darpanarayan Matha.
It is located by the side of the Emar Matha. It is associated with the memory of Guru Nanak.This Matha supplies a ram for 'bali'(sacrifice)before the Goddess Bimala,each year on Mahanabami night.There is another Matha of Guru Nanak sect,known as Baaul Matha.
The other Maths connected with the affiars of Sri Jagannath temple are Sri Ram Das (Dakhina parshaw)Matha,Uttara parshaw Matha,Trimali Matha,Mahiprakash Matha,Sankarananda Matha Gangamata Matha, Radhaballav Matha,Labanikhia Matha,Chhauni Matha,Jhadu Matha,Papudia Matha,Nebal Das Matha, Devagiri Matha,Pipili Sadabarta Matha,Sanachhata Matha, Jhanjapita Matha,Samadhi Matha,Balaram Kota Matha,Badasantha Matha,Ramji Matha,Sidhabakula Matha,Venkatachari Matha,Narasinghachari Matha,Ghumusara Matha,(now in ruins),Radhakanta Matha,(Sri Chaitanya visited Puri in 1510 AD and stayed in this Matha.Some of his personal belongings have been preserved in this Matha).Kothabhog Matha,Mahabir Matha etc.The mahantas of these Matha are entitled to perform 'Upachara Chamara seva,but most of them are not doing the seva. The Mathas are under the control of State Endowment Commissioner.There are two Mathas under the Sri Jagannath Temple Managing Committee. They are Chaulia Matha and Delhi Nalak Ram Das Matha (near Gundicha temple).There is another Matha known as Sata lahadi Matha in the Swargadwar area.It is the burial place of Atibadi Jagannath Das,author of the Bhagabata purana in Oriya.This Matha is being managed by a committee under the Chairmanship of Collector,Puri.Another Matha located in the same area is the Kabir choura Matha,associated with the Kabir sect. It is said that Kabir,the mystic poet stayed here when he visited Puri.There are some other Matha unconnected with the rituals of the Jagannath temple like Chaitanya Goudiya Matha,Purusottam Goudiya Matha,Panjabi Matha etc.Many Mathas have stopped performing services in the temple and those who perform now,do so to a limited extent.Some of the Mathas are entitled to get 'Khei'(a portion of the Kotha bhog) of the temple.
Outside Puri town, there is another Matha in the Kakatpur village area,known as Deuli Matha which is connected with the Nabakalebar ceremony of the temple.
THE FOUR ASHRAMS
Connected with certain rituals of the temple of Jagannath,there are four Ashrams (hermitages) in Puri town.These are